Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio
at a Glance

Maker: Macromedia
Price: $1,199 for the full version (Studio includes Director 8.5, Fireworks 4, Shockwave Multiuser Server 3 and some freebie software); upgrades are also available
Platforms: Macintosh and Windows

Overall Impression: It's difficult to generalize about a suite as feature-rich as Director 8.5. This multimedia authoring suite offers incredible flexibility and robust scripting without being overly complicated. It allows you to build Web content or standalone applications with ease and with a great degree of sophistication. Whether you're developing the latest D&D adventure game or simply building a presentation to take on the road with you, it would be difficult to find something this powerful and easy to use.

Key Benefits: Director 8.5 is the first viable platform for total 3D and interactive authoring. The power is incredible, as is the simplicity for some of the more common functions. The ability to drag library behaviors over objects makes this an incredibly valuable tool for rapid multimedia development, while the Lingo scripting offers essentially unlimited expandability for more complex projects.

Disappointments: In terms of library support, the 3D offerings are plentiful, but you can't do as much with it. There are some playback problems with QuickTime elements, and there's also artifacting when you apply vector motions to 3D objects. (This last one could be a graphics card issue with the ATI Rage 128 AGP.)

Recommendation: Strong Buy as both an upgrade and a straight purchase.


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Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio
[Page 2 of 5]

What's new ... and not so new
Before we get into the new features of Director 8.5, I think I should expand on the concept of Director a little bit. A while back, there was a little bit of confusion in the market over the value of Director given that Flash was emerging as Web designers' favorite interactive development tool. "Why should we use Shockwave when we have Flash?" That was sort of the question on everybody's mind (everybody who cared to ponder such matters, anyway). Macromedia probably didn't help the situation much by giving Flash files the .swf extension (as in "Shockwave file") and Shockwave files the .dcr extension (as in Director).

So what's the difference? Director creates Shockwave files (.dcr), and Flash creates Flash files (.swf). They require different browser plugins for viewing on the Web, but both viewers enjoy pretty widespread distribution. (Macromedia says 200 million people have the Shockwave plugin for viewing Director files; in addition, the Shockwave viewer automatically downloads new components to allow users to view content that might be newer than their current viewer allows.) Both create interactive presentations for the Web. Both are capable of being distributed as standalone applications. (I bet you didn't know that about Flash.) And, particularly with the release of Flash 5, both offer some pretty powerful interactive features.

True, true. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you can't do this or that in Flash. With enough programming, you probably can. But you can do it more easily in Director; you can do it for multiple users in Director; you can do it with more types of media in Director; and you can just do more in Director. And, with the release of Director 8.5, the gap widens much further.

Similar to the first example, this one also includes
vector motion ("drag and toss"). Simply click, drag
and let go of the fish. Click again to center it
on your cursor.

Just as an example, let's say you want users to be able to grab an object and toss it, allowing it to bounce around the stage area, knock into other objects and then return to its original position with a mouse click or key stroke. You know how you do this in Director? You click and drag three library behaviors onto your object, just as if you were dragging a Layer Style onto a picture in Photoshop. That's it. You can control speed, restrictions, interactions with other objects and a whole host of other parameters just by adjusting sliders or filling in values in pop-up dialogs. Or you can just leave all of these values at default.

A sampling of some of the object behaviors available in Director's
libraries. To use these, you simply drag them onto an object in
your main window, or "stage."

What could be more simple?

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.
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